Everyone knows that keyword research is hard work - but it's a skill that every video creator should have in their toolbox. Here are 7 ways to rank on YouTube using the best keyword research hacks.
Keyword research. It's one of those things every video creator on YouTube should have in their skill set. While you may know what your content is about, you need to be able to understand how to tell YouTube what your content is about. So in turn, YouTube can share that content with exactly the people who want to watch what your content is all about. We're going to tell you everything you need to know to get proven results, to help grow your channel. In this post you’ll learn:
Keyword Research Basics: Using the YouTube Search Bar
How to Play the YouTube Search Bar Alphabet Game
How to Drill Down on Niche YouTube Keywords
How to Jump on Trending YouTube Keywords
How to Target a Specific Audience with the Right Keywords
How to Determine Keyword Interest Over Time
How to Analyze the Success of Your Keywords
A keyword is a word or concept of great significance. Or to put it into a YouTube context, an informative word used in an information retrieval system to indicate the content of a video. When it comes to keyword, try and imagine it as the first word, or phrase, or conscious thought, that instinctively comes into your head, when you think of that particular topic.
That’s a very simple introduction to keywords, but it obviously gets a lot more complicated. I'm sure you already know, that if you put in a single word into a YouTube search, you're not going to get exactly what you're looking for. Often, when people search on YouTube, or on Google, they're looking for keyword phrases AKA long-tail keywords. And again, you have to have an instinctive mindset.
If I have a flat tire on my car, my instinct is to search for something along the lines of “how to replace a flat tire.” If I have a sudden urge to play the piano, my instincts might be to search for “beginners guide to playing the piano.” If my toilet is blocked, well, you get the picture. And of course, if you want to grow your YouTube channel, your instinct might be to search for “how to get more YouTube views.”
So before we dive into the details, there are three fundamentals of keywords:
A keyword represents the first thing that usually comes into a person's head.
A keyword is often part of a key phrase - a sentence of three or four words.
And most crucially, think like a human, not a robot, when it comes to researching keywords, and then using them in your titles and descriptions.
As a very simple example, let's take the title, “how to get more YouTube views.” It's keyword rich, but does it have enough of a draw to really entice a viewer to click on it? What if we added a year to the title, to give it more currency? And maybe an adjective to give it more umph, such as how to get more YouTube views fast in 2019. Simple changes like this, can have a really powerful impact on the way a title is perceived by a potential viewer.
1. Keyword Research Basics: Using the YouTube Search Bar
All right, let's go on an epic keyword journey using your best friend, the YouTube search bar. Even if you type in a very simple keyword, such as “how to,” almost an auxiliary keyword for many phrases, YouTube will start to make suggestions.
But of course “how to” is a very broad keyword. So how could we narrow this down? Let's add a verb, such as install. Now we are getting into a more technical landscape, which is all to do with construction, or building something. We're very much in the instructional, or tutorial area of YouTube. But of course, your channel and topic of interest, is going to be very specific to one of these keywords. So let's look at how to install Windows 10.
Now we have a pretty good, broad keyword, for computer tutorials. But again, look at how YouTube is encouraging you to dive even deeper into this topic. Remember, these are the topics people are searching for on YouTube, and that's why YouTube is showing them to you. It thinks, you want to know how to install Windows on a new PC, or on SSD, or with a USB.
So to dip your feet into the YouTube keyword bathtub, so to speak, you should always start with the search bar, and see what auto-complete suggestions is pushing your way, for your topic of interest.
2. Play the YouTube Search Bar Alphabet Game
Another thing you can try is the YouTube search keyword alphabet game. Once you have a keyword you're comfortable with, simply add one character to it, and go through the alphabet. So “how to make slime A”, or “how to make slime B.” And you'll get all sorts of interesting suggestions from YouTube, that people are searching for.
It's amazing how many long-tail keywords you can find doing this process, to really help you niche down, and find a very specific topic that you're passionate about.
3. Drill Down on Niche YouTube Keywords
Now on to my favorite part of any video, and that's introducing you to some vidIQ tools. Remember, if you want to see any of this on your YouTube pages, download the vidIQ Chrome extension. We're going to take a fairly general keyword here, which is “how to make slime.” And once you press enter, and it shows you the YouTube search page, you're going to start to see some of the YouTube tools that we have. The first one we're going to look at is the subscriber count. Something I'm always interested in, is whether a small channel is having an impact on a search term.
At the time of making the above video, we found two channels with less than 10K subscribers who were ranking on the front page of YouTube for “how to make slime.” WProving that small channels can make an impact with very broad, and popular, search terms. If a channel with 1,000 subscribers, is getting a video with 100,000 views, that tells me at some point in the past, this keyword was right for making content about.
Now, interestingly, the title of one video includes the word cheap. So maybe we can include that in our keyword search term - “How to make cheap slime.” Now at this point, we can riff on the keyword a little bit. Instead of searching for “how to make cheap slime”, how about searching for “how to make slime on a budget?” It means the same thing, it's just worded slightly differently.
But who's searching for that search term? At the time of writing, the number one result on YouTube for that keyphrase is a channel with only 1,137 subscribers. Scroll down and there are other small channels appearing on the first page for the term.
So we can confirm that there are relatively small channels making a huge impact in the world of how to make slime. And all I did was focus on a particular niche in the area, which was making slime on the cheap, or on a budget.
4. Jump on Trending YouTube Keywords
Funnily enough, you're not the only one doing keyword research on YouTube. There are thousands of video creators, just like you, trying to find those super-rich keywords to help serve the billions of people who watch YouTube every single month. YouTube's been around for 13 years, so many a keyword, such as “how to unblock a toilet”, “how to replace a spare tire”, and “how to get more YouTube views” have had the life sucked out of them, over that period of time.
So what becomes super important, especially for smaller channels, are trending keywords. For example, Fortnite is one of the most popular video games on the planet right now, and is heavily searched for. So how might a video gamer refine the search? Maybe if they looked at how to improve gaming performance on Fortnite in season six and beyond? Essentially raising their phrase per second, or FPS boost.
So now we have a very popular keyword, combined with a trending topic, combined with a sub-genre of the core keyword. Instead of finding just channels of eight-million subscribers, we're finding channels of all shapes and sizes competing for this very specific trending keyword.
A telltale sign of a juicy keyword is when small channels are wrangling for this keyword, and they have far more views than subscribers, on their channel. That means the video's been shared out to a much wider audience.
5. Target a Specific Audience with the Right Keywords
Now for something that is super important to remember. Most of us probably aren't interested in Fortnite, don't have a clue what season six means, and definitely don't understand the concept of frames-per-second boost. But you have to remember that you're not trying to appeal to the entirety of YouTube. You're looking to target a very specific audience, wanting very specific answers, to very specific things. And this is where keyword research is so important.
When you are passionate about a topic you build-up an intimate relationship, knowledge, and interest in the topic. Just like your potential audience. And that's who you want to appeal to. Whether it's for educational purposes, to tell a story, or to draw an emotional response from your audience, that innate passion you have for the topic, will be seen in your videos. And you just need to transfer that into your knowledge of the keywords that surround that content, in your tags, titles, and descriptions.
Because, what you're trying to find here are keywords of opportunity. Those are keywords, or key phrases, with the most search volume as possible, versus keywords with as little video competition as possible, on YouTube.
You can do this with the vidIQ keyword score tool. It tries to simplify this task, as much as possible - the higher the score, the juicier the keyword. But as you might expect, these things do not grow on trees. Which is why it's so important to spend some time doing some keyword research. Anytime you see a number next to a video tag on YouTube (once you have vidIQ installed) that's your keyword score. As you might expect, the potential of keywords can change very rapidly. But as a general rule of thumb, you want to be looking at keywords of a score of 50, or above. For a lot more detail to look into our keyword score, check out this video:
Now let's return to this keyword ‘ “fortnite season 6 fps boost”. At first the keyword score shows that there is still relatively low search volume, but very low competition. So it was a very juicy keyword. We looked again at the keyword two or three weeks later. Search volume increased significantly, while the competition score has remained relatively flat. And this is quite a rare occurrence in YouTube.
Now the landscape of the search results has changed as well. We've got a much larger channel now, dominating the top of the search terms, but look at our second channel. This one has managed to maintain its presence in the search terms , and the view count has more than doubled, and subscriber count has increased significantly. So this channel has really benefited from this keyword. As for the other channel that appears in these search rankings here, we'll come back to him later.
6. Determine Keyword Interest Over Time
What else can vidIQ tell you? Well, if you enable inline keywords, you can see all of the keyword phrases they're using in their video tags. If we click on one of these tags, it launches the vidIQ keyword inspector. This will give you a mountain of information about the keyword selected, including the keyword score, and interest over time.
7. Use the vidIQ Keyword Research Tool
All right, one more super powerful vidIQ tool to tell you about. And a lot of people miss this one, because it's found in the vidIQ Chrome extension button. So click on there. You'll see a range of options, and you want to select SEO tags. This brings you into the vidIQ web app, and you will need keyword research tab. Now when you do a keyword search here, not only does it bring up all of the information that we saw on the YouTube search page, such as the search score, competition score, overall keyword score, but all of the related keywords, as well. So, for a combination of all our tools, you can not only find single keyword phrases, all that are significant, but a whole bundle.
The idea with keyword research, is not to spend five minutes finding that golden keyword that you can create maybe one or two videos from. It's to spend a considerable amount of time getting a collection of keywords, that all work together for a video series. That's why we recommend maybe spending a morning, or an afternoon, using the vidIQ tools that we've shown you, to get maybe 10, 15, 20 keywords, that you can create 20, 50, maybe 100 videos from.
When you have a focus, a particular niche, that's where you can hammer the YouTube algorithm, time and time again, with content that YouTube will start to see you as an authority, in. And that's when you can start to climb up the search rankings. Especially for search intent. Because when you find your niche, spectacular things can start to happen.
Keyword Research: The Positive Impact on a YouTube Channel
We're going to look back at a YouTube channel we briefly saw in the Fortnite search rankings before. In the summer of 2018 this channel didn't have any focus. They were doing random videos on pranks and whatnot. But then, they had one breakthrough video, on the topic of boosting frames-per-second, on Fortnite, on season five. And this is what the channel did next.
They threw all of their content into that one keyword phrase, boosting frames-per-second on Fortnite, whatever season it was. And these went from a few hundred a video, to thousands, if not tens of thousands, of views per video. In just a few short months, this channel has become one of the authorities on the subject, so that now, whenever they post a video on Fortnite, and boosting frames-per-second, they rank at the top of the search terms, instantly. If you want to know more about this particular keyword research story, then check out this video:
I know we've used Fortnite for many examples, and it's because we have a lot of data on the subject. But believe me this strategy can be applied to any video topic. I did exactly the same thing a couple of years ago. It was all on a topic of how to record your iPhone screen, or your iPad screen, or iOS screen. And I was able to successfully leverage YouTube into sharing these videos with hundreds of thousands of people. And it grew my channel from tens of thousands of subscribers to over a 100,000 subscribers.
Use Keywords to Show YouTube What Your Content is About
All you've got to do is take these tips, tricks, and strategies, and apply it to your video topic, by doing the keyword research. But don't leave those keywords in your notebook or in your computer, because those are going to form the basics of your metadata to help your content be more discoverable on YouTube.
The more keyword research work you do for your titles and descriptions, the increased likelihood of YouTube surfacing those videos in search results. To put it simply, front-load your video titles with keywords, include those same keywords in the first two lines of your description, and include them in your video tags and playlist, as well. Give YouTube every opportunity to understand specifically, what your content is about. And stick to it over a series of videos.
Another important reason for having keywords at the very beginning of your video descriptions, is because people can read this when they search for content. So try to think of the beginning of your description, as if it were a classic tweet of 140 characters. Reinforce your keywords, while still making it a readable sentence. Give an enticing reason for the viewer to click on your video, and don't waste space with links and calls-to-actions, that will take the viewer away from your video.
The Importance of LSI Keywords
Just before we analyze the success of your keywords in your YouTube videos, I want to step outside of YouTube for a second, and go into Google search, to look at something called LSI keywords. What on earth are they? It stands for latent semantic indexing. And if you still don't understand what that means, it's a system search engines use to analyze other words people use surrounding a given topic. If you don't know what that means, don't worry, I'll show you in Google.
When you do a search on Google, if you scroll to the very bottom of the first search page, you'll see lots of related keywords to what you were searching for. And these are your LSI keywords. So this is another golden opportunity to beef up your keyword collection.
If you scroll to the top of the Google search page, you'll find something else of interest, as well. If you produce good quality content, and have a strong keyword metadata in your YouTube videos, they'll start to be suggested in Google search. Imagine all of that extra free external traffic, being driven to not only your videos, but to YouTube, as well!
How to Analyze the Success of Your Keywords
Now let's look at how you can analyze the success of your keywords. We're back into some vidIQ tools here, so once you have the Chrome extension installed, you can take a look at our SEO scorecard. This can be found either on the video upload/editor page, or on video watch pages.
You want to pay close attention to the actionable aspects of this SEO scorecard. When you use strong keywords in your tags, titles, and descriptions, and reinforce them throughout your metadata, your score will continue to increase. And you want to try and get to as close as 50 as possible. This gives your videos the best possible chance of fruition on YouTube, and that's reflected by the performance score.
When your keywords in your video tags, start to rank highly and consistently, you will definitely see the rewards in your video views.
And for all vidIQ Boost users, don't forget to scroll to the bottom of the video editor page, and take advantage of our recommended tags tour. As you input keywords into your tags, titles, and descriptions, we will advise on further tags you might want to use. But be selective. Choose the ones that really define your video content.
How else can you analyze the success of your keywords? One of our most powerful tools is the Channel Audit button, found on the left-hand side navigation bar once you've installed the vidIQ Chrome extension. It will give you a full report card on your channel, 24/7. What we want to do here, is scroll down to this section that says ‘Top Search Terms’. This will show you all the traffic that's coming to your channel, from keyword search terms on YouTube. And you can click on the view more buttons to see all of the traffic coming from keyword search terms, including views and watch time.
Common sense will compel you to create more content on the keywords that are performing well for your channel. It's what we like to call the double-down strategy.
Want To Get More Views on YouTube?
If you want to take your YouTube channel to the next level and get more views on YouTube then make sure to download vidIQ. Join over 1 million other users and use vidIQ to help you research YouTube, analyze videos, audit your own channel, and take actionable steps click here to install now!
Carla Marshall is the Head of Content Marketing at vidIQ. She has 10+ years of experience in video marketing, social media management, content marketing, DRM, and SEO. She was previously Editor in Chief at ReelSEO.com, and as a journalist and video marketer, she's covered news stories, creator journeys, and digital-first publishing initiatives across all the major online video platforms. She is YouTube Certified and a judge for the Shorty Awards, as well as the UK, US, Canadian, Global, and EU Search Awards.